Dementia Chronicles (part 2)

It isn’t something that gets talked about at parties or even mentioned in prayer requests, but the battle against dementia is being fought by far more people in our circles than we may know. I’m finding that out slowly, but surely as more and more people contact me seemingly out of the blue…but not really. It’s been happening for months now. As always, God has a plan. It seems as though He is determined to increase my faith the hard way, to build my prayer life deeper, and (oddly enough for this introvert!) to increase my community by using a disease that separates its victims from their own.

It’s not that I have all the wisdom about dementia (that is FAR from the truth and simply impossible), but I do have a platform in this blog and since everything else about me belongs to God, this does, too. Just publishing the part 1 of this string on dementia created multiple conversations with people I’ve known for years without being aware that they, too, were parting with loved ones long before their actual demise.

Here’s what I do know: the words that we use to describe dementia aren’t adequate. Insidious. Cruel. Angry. Heartbreaking. Vicious. Painful. Sad. Heart-wrenching. Horrendous. These are some of the descriptors used by friends who know the power or this disease. Every single word applies, but none of them–or even the grouping of them together!–is enough to cover the bases of dementia as it steals the minds and removes the last vestiges of what makes us individuals, the personality God gave us from the beginning and the bits we’ve added along the way.

My only comfort right now comes in knowing that as awful as this disease is, my God is greater…even when it feels like He is being silent. Earlier this week, I stood ready to enter a store. My phone rang with another update. On the other end, another–Strong!–and devoted loved one cried out as she stood in the thick of the battle. Once again, my hands were tied and I was far away, so I did the only thing I could do–the very thing that on the surface doesn’t seem like it will be enough, but which, in reality, is the most powerful tool at my disposal. I walked around the corner and I began to pray out loud as I paced back and forth between the building and the road in this town where no one knows me. I would have done the same thing if I had been anywhere else.

I began to pray the litany that has rung in my own brain for the weeks and months since we started this latest and most drastic decline. I have become dependent on it. I have become persistent in it. I am convinced of the truth and the power of it…though I have yet to see it completely fulfilled in this situation.

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!
God, You are our Provider. Send us Your Provision!
Your Word says that You cannot lie, so help us to see and remember Your Truth in this time of confusion. Order the chaos in her mind, Father God, and bring order to our emotions.
Father, You are full of mercy. Be merciful to us and to our loved one and help us to see that mercy in action!
You alone are the Source of Wisdom, Father. Grant wisdom to those who care for her and direction for us as we make decisions on her behalf.
You are our Peace! Surround us with Your Presence and comfort us in Your Love.
You are our Strength. Steel us for this battle!

God, You are our Healer. Help us to remain healthy so we can tend to the needs of our loved one. Give healing to her, as well, in whatever way You choose.
Father, You are our defender. Shelter us in this time of trouble!
God, You are our Hope and our Joy! Help us to actively search for You in this hard thing and share You with those around us. 

Glorify Yourself in this situation and in us!

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!

 

On and on it goes; attribute after attribute about my God circles through my head. Sometimes, in this order. Other times, it is changed, but it always begins and ends with “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”

I am aware, you see, that my faith is flawed even though my God is not. This battle is just the latest in a series for us and, while that used to make me angry, I now see it as having been prepped for this battle. Mostly (but unfortunately not always–because of that flawed faith, again!) it makes me calmer when I am faced with all of the details that I cannot control, contain, or fully comprehend–NOT because I’m smarter or stronger, but because my faith in God is deeper than it used to be. Those same limitations can be applied to what is possible to know and understand about God, so this TOTALLY uncomfortable uncertainty for this Fixer-personality is not new to me. I have a long history of trusting in my Creator when facing challenges. I am completely cognizant that I cannot win this or any other battle alone. None of us can, but I know the One Who can make that a reality…and you can, too. We just have to start out by finding, acknowledging, and speaking the truth about who our God is. That’s simpler than it sounds. He wants to be known. He’s had a whole Book written just so we could know Him better.

He is a personal God and He loves us, individually and corporately. No matter what battle you’re facing and fighting–or running from!!–today, He is available just by calling His Name. Get to know Him and begin to call on Him today! (and call me, too, if I can help you get to know Him better. It would be an honor to share Him with you.)

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Dementia (part 1)

I asked my mother why she raised me to be a “fixer.” She laughed. She knows what that means: to be efficient and competent at so many things…and the frustrations that come when all of that isn’t even close to being enough.

My husband didn’t laugh when I told him about our conversation. He just looked at me and said, “that ability has stood you in pretty good stead over the years and we’re both better off because of it.”

He’s right, but I can’t fix this…and if ever there was a list of somethings that I wanted to fix, well, this would probably be right up there near the top. I have grown to hate even the word that names the demon: dementia.

It is evil and hateful and cruel. It steals life both past and present from patient and loved ones before time of death. At times it feels almost alive as we watch the effects of it sweep away in a rage the memories and function and peace of mind in one we love. It is like being unwilling participants in a horror movie that you can’t leave or turn off and God alone knows the ending…and He’s not talking.

That last sentence isn’t quite true. God DOES know the ending…and He IS talking, but for today, at least, He’s not talking about the ending–when it will come or how long it will take. That leaves us reeling from phone call to phone call and gives new meaning to “praying without ceasing” as I remind God of His promises and cling to all that I know about Him.

If God wasn’t an option, I might just lose my mind, as well. I cling to the gift of Him and cry out prayers even as I walk silently among the people around me, desperately walking out my faith even in my sleep these days. I wake in the night to check messages and find myself blogging and not publishing because it feels too real…and too raw to lay out where others can see and touch it.

I have to write it, though, and give voice to the struggle against it, share the every-moment bravery of those who fight it alongside loved ones who may no longer recognize them…and may even be frightened of them as they provide care.

Dementia affects much more than just the individual with the diagnosis. It is agonizing with and for those who are able to be on-site, feeling selfish when you cannot be there to help in any physical way possible…and dreading the time when it will be your turn.

A rose is a rose is a…

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IMG_20171129_104111525_HDRI transplanted a couple of roses earlier this fall. Actually, I pulled up two that bloomed only once a year with little-to-no scent and replaced them with two that have a much longer blooming season, amazing scent, and a special place in my heart. The new roses have acclimated beautifully and even began to throw some blooms my way late in the season. I’ve been sharing pictures of one of the later blooms with a nearby friend. It’s been too beautiful to keep to myself. She saw it in person at about the third-photo stage.

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I told her that it would change colors as it matured, but even though I’ve seen it over and over again, I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t communicate exactly how much the change would be or how much it always delights me to see it happen.

Some things have to be seen to be believed.

This rose (“Rio Samba” by Weeks Roses) changes size, shape, color, and the scent–which they mistakenly call “light”–seems to get a little “louder” the more time it spends on the bush. (kind of like me! Ha!) The late blooming season isn’t unusual for this rose. One year, my mother and I decorated the wedding cake for my Cousin Reyna and covered it up with blooms grown at the corner of my house in Mississippi…on Thanksgiving DAY! (We had to thaw out the water they were held in overnight with a hairdryer, but the blooms–and the cake!–were magnificent!)

Just for your reference, these photos are of the same rose! The first photo was taken on November 15th of this year right after my friend Linda headed back to Mississippi. The final photo was taken on December 3, 2017, once I returned home from my last show of the season. I missed the one where it was covered with snow…because the snow melted almost as quickly as I noticed it and Georgia snow isn’t much for hanging around waiting on me to take my photo op! (grin) Finally, just today, I pulled the spent petals from the bush and flung them into the air where they landed in a perky array of color all around the mulch underneath the rose bush.

I always do that. It’s kind of like making a wish or sending a prayer for more. Flinging the spent, but still colorful petals is pointless to accomplish “the more”, but it always makes me smile…and that’s enough.

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As the petals arced upward today, I thought about my recent visit back to Mississippi to see family for an early Christmas. We missed having my husband and my brother with us, but my parents are doing as well as can be expected. It’s only been a few months since I’ve seen them, but the nephews are smarter, taller, and stronger. My sister and brother-in-law remain busy and productive. In short, things are going pretty much as they should be. We’re all getting older and, hopefully, wiser. We’re all changing…and we’re all the same. We still have things to accomplish and though we’re not as young as we used to be, we’re still busy “becoming” what we’re all called to be.

There’s something to be said for that.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. The same God who was in control at Creation is still busy creating. He’s still giving us opportunities for growth and watching over us as we deepen, unfurl our petals, and find our voices. I see the physical changes most in my parents and the nephews, but I know it’s happening in all of us.

Lest you know them and become alarmed, rest easy. The parents are still lively and hysterically funny. They work together to accomplish what needs to be done and continue to bless and encourage others along the way. It’s just easier to see the changes when we’re all seated at the same table these days. Each of us still has work to do and we’re going about it the best we can. The start of a life, the middle, and the winding up of it are all a part of the Plan and the Planner.

No matter what stage you find yourself in today, I hope you’ll join me in praying the verse that’s been posted around our home for over a year. It’s over the sink and on the lamp, by the desk, and in my heart:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

The sticky notes and the one in my head are from the NKJV translation, but I also want to share the AMPC version with you, as well.

 

“And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands—yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.” Psalm 90:17 (AMPC)

I hope you view these photos of the changing rose and see some of the same parallels I do with whatever season of life you’re in right now. It’s ALL beautiful! May the beauty, the delightfulness, and the favor of God be rich within you and evident in your own life as He directs the work of your hands today.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Grace and Peace!

On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

The Today Blessing

I’m cleaning out again. Still. This time it’s the table top beside my chair. Old cards, magazines, photos, pens, paints, sticky notes with prayers and verses on them, books and Bible study materials…yes, I’ve managed to amass quite the collection of treasures here.

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As I’ve sifted through all of the detritus of many yesterdays, I unearthed this poem. I’ve had it for so long that I can’t remember where I found it, so I can’t give credit where its due, but it’s too good to keep myself, so here it is, just for you in case you need reminding, too…

Living in the Present (by Helen Mallicoat, 1977)

I was regretting the past and fearing the future.

Suddenly my Teacher was speaking:

“My name is I AM.” He paused, I waited.

He continued, “When you live in the past

with its mistakes and regrets,

it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future

with its problems and fears, it is hard.

I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,

it is not hard. I am HERE.

My name is I AM.”

Grace and Peace…and as Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”…because that’s where God is, too.

God and His “new things”

cropped-heart“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

I did something different this morning. I made a big breakfast and sent my husband off to work. Y’all, that is cause for serious celebration around here! (grin) It may not sound like a reason to party for most of you, but I haven’t done that in 192 days. For those of you who are counting, that’s over 6 months–over half a year!! For those of you who are really counting, that says that on Day 2 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, my husband lost his job…and that God can have a really odd sense of humor when He decides to see if you’re serious about such a thing.

It was a shock to us. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden and drastic change in circumstances. A business decision–nothing personal, but with no warning–suddenly severed a situation that we had come to count on for over 16 years. I guess God had decided to remind us that all we can really depend on in this world is HIM…and He’s taken His time and done that in spades.

As we’ve walked through the past few months we’ve discovered (or maybe RE-discovered!) some things about our God and about ourselves. I’ve been quiet here about them as they were happening because some things are just holy in the moment and I didn’t feel like they were really mine to share yet. Some of those things are still so intensely personal that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell them (and certainly not without tears!), but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • God loves us far more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He loves us enough to send us through things we’d rather not go through in order to show us that His love is constant, without reservation, and that He has no limits to the lengths He will go to prove that–as if the cross hadn’t already proven it!
  • God is indeed Jehovah Jireh—my Provider–and YOURS! He is MORE than ENOUGH no matter what circumstances He chooses for us because He orchestrates every single day so that we can see Him in action if we will but open our eyes.
  • He is charge and He knows EXACTLY what we need…even (especially?!) when it seems like a hard thing and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us on the surface. He is more than able to meet every single need we will ever face and we can never predict how our answers will come because our God is without limits and unfathomable in His ability to surprise and delight us with when we seek HIS answers, HIS timing, and HIS glory.
  • God’s people are AMAZING!! In our initial shock and throughout our “I don’t even know what to call it because it was hard and such a blessing all at the same time–thing!!” people we didn’t even know very well went to their knees on our behalf and showered us with encouragement, while those who know us best were unbelievable in their support for us.
  • We are still a great team. We’ve always known it (HA!), but it’s still nice to see our marriage work the way it is supposed to and we are grateful for the opportunity to spend over half a year together—even as unexpected as that opportunity was for us! We made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun in the process.
  • After over 23 years of marriage, we still LIKE each other and we know how to laugh together!
  • We were, are, and will always be “the most blessed people we know” because we CHOOSE to be. Circumstances cannot affect that. We belong to God and He is the Source of all blessing, so there’s that.

There will be more to share, but for today, did you read that verse at the top? Everybody likes “a new thing.” It’s really great to be in on the new thing, but sometimes we forget that one of the most exciting things can be to actually see God make a way in wilderness and rivers in the desert…and to see those things happen, you have BE in the wilderness and in the desert. If that’s where you are today, please don’t give in to discouragement. PLEASE be open to the new thing God has planned for you and know that I can and WILL pray with you for eyes to see the new things getting ready to spring up in the midst of your hard thing.

And now, there’s just one more thing to say: “GO, GOD!!!”

A different way to worship

I was taught to do my best at everything. I was taught that when I did my best, it would be enough because I was also taught not to quit until it was enough. I was taught to pull my own weight and help others pull theirs, when needed. I was taught to play well with others and work well with a team, but mainly, I was taught to be self-sufficient.

Those are good things.

In fact, if I had a child, I’d probably make sure I taught them the same lessons. Mixed with my own natural stubborn streak, those lessons have pulled or pushed me through when others around me didn’t see how it was possible. I’m grateful for those lessons. And yet…

Those same lessons can be misapplied, as well. I know this because when I look back, I see that I often took those lessons about my physical life and tried to put them to work in my spiritual life, as well. Don’t get me wrong. Some of those lessons–especially the “don’t quit!” one–have probably been beneficial from a spiritual angle, but they don’t always translate so well. That self-sufficient thing can get me in trouble because I’ve been known to try to fix things on my own instead of asking God to do things His way. (And right now, you’re probably thinking, “Mercy! I’m so glad I’ve never done that!”…right?!…right.)

I’m still taking my time reading through Matthew. This morning, I read Matthew 15:21-28…again. This is the passage where a Gentile woman came to beg Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter…and got ignored for awhile. She persisted. The disciples begged Him to do something just to make shut her up and leave. Jesus’ response seems more than a bit rude. She begged some more and His response appears even more harsh. She persisted all the more…and “Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

At first glance, this seems designed to reinforce my stubborn streak and applaud the level of my persistence…but not really. Here’s what caught my heart this morning as I went back and reread verse 25: “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'” (NKJV)

Wow. This lady with a problem that was way more than she could handle on her own WORSHIPED Him by asking for help. Let that sink in a moment. Yes. Oh, my.

At the heart of it all, to worship is to ascribe worth that is due; to acknowledge the weight of something; to truly see and respond appropriately to the core value of the object of the worship. That’s what this lady did. When she asked for help from Jesus, she worshiped! She saw the core value and the worth of the One standing before her and she needed some of THAT in her life because she had discovered she could not fix it by herself.

Maybe you’re like me today. Maybe there’s something you can’t fix, either…and you’ve tried. Maybe you need to worship with me today and ask for help from the only One who can really fix it.

Father God, I’m coming to worship you in a new way today. I’m coming because I desperately need YOU to show up and fix it. I align my prayer with the woman in Your Word today and I am begging: “Lord, help me!” I am in need of things that only You can deliver. I need this handled. And if, by some measure I’m wrong about WHAT I believe I need and I am requesting what is not your best for me, then I still need, so please give me an accurate assessment of what I DO need and help me to turn to You for that, as well. Amen.